Why this under-the-radar player is a darkhorse candidate for Patriots MVP


It’s hard to have any discussions about the Patriots’ most valuable player thus far in 2022 without the names “Matthew Judon” and “Rhamondre Stevenson” entering the chat first.

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Judon belongs in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation at this point, putting up 11.5 sacks in New England’s first nine games and ranking third in the league in total pressures (44). Stevenson, meanwhile, is breaking out as a true No. 1, three-down running back, rushing for 620 yards and adding 35 catches (sixth among running backs) for 272 yards in the passing game.

But one man we typically don’t notice might be in the running for that conversation as well, according to Taylor Kyles of CLNS Media and NextGen Stats.

“I want to go with Mike Onwenu,” Kyles told the “1st and Foxborough” podcast during the bye week. “He’s been fantastic. Every single game, he’s a rock. He’s so consistent. … I know it’s weird to go with an offensive lineman, but the guy’s been — I don’t want to say solid, that’s disrespectful. He’s been dominant.”

That’s a fact.

A year after grading out as Patriots’ best player on either side of the ball, per Pro Football Focus, Onwenu is the third-highest graded Patriot behind Jack Jones (!!) and Stevenson.

Onwenu boasts the fourth-highest grade among NFL guards both overall and specifically as a pass-blocker and is the 16th-best lineman at any position in the league in both those areas.

He’s also one of just three offensive linemen in the league, along with Tampa Bay’s Tristan Wirfs and San Francisco’s Jake Brendel, to give up fewer than five pressures and not yield a sack.

For an offensive line that has gotten a good deal of flack lately and undergone some cosmetic changes, Onwenu has been the unit’s steadiest performer by far. Kyles even suggested the Patriots should move Onwenu to right tackle starting this week, saying his performance at right guard — a non-premium position by most measures — is a luxury New England can’t totally afford given the revolving door at that position.

Wherever the Patriots put him, though, you know you probably won’t hear much opposing defenders’ names called too often. That’s pretty valuable.

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